Trapezitis is an inflammatory pain arising from the trapezius muscle (Picture 1) causing a severe neck spasm. This muscle lies at the back of the neck and helps in shrugging movement of the shoulders along with upward movement of the head. Unlike torticollis, the pain and stiffness due to trapezitis, is episodic and lasts for 3-5 days at a time. Bad posture is frequently incriminated as the cause for trapezitis. Watching television or working on a computer with an awkward posture, or even the use of a thick pillow can cause frequent episodes of neck spasm. The pain of trapezitis can be felt more during extension of the neck backwards as in looking upwards. The trapezius muscle at the back of the neck becomes hard and stiff and a light massage to this area tends to relieve the pain.
Picture 1: Trapezius Muscle
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The treatment of trapezitis is conservative and consists of analgesics and muscle relaxants during the painful episode of neck spasm. This should be coupled with complete rest to the muscle which is ensured with a soft cervical collar. Neck muscle strengthening exercises and good posture habits should be followed after complete relief from pain to prevent further episodes of trapezitis. Sometimes after frequent painful episodes a person develops certain trigger points at the back of the neck which tend to remain painful even after the acute episode. Such trigger points are to be identified correctly and are to be treated with local steroid injections. 2-3 injections seperated by an interval of 15 days generally suffice for cure of trigger points in trapezitis.
(Source: Lakesidemedical Inc)
The soft cervical collar (Picture 2) is an excellent orthosis for pain relief in trapezitis. It prevents the nodding movements which are known to put stress on the trapezius. It allows sideways movements to some extent, which keeps the other neck muscles active and maintains their strength. However, excessive use can weaken the neck muscles (disuse atrophy) and make way for vertebral diseases which are difficult to recover from. Hence, the use of a cervical collar should be only restricted to acutely painful episodes !
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Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on November 4, 2011